Alice: Madness Returns (Video Game Preview)

When you remake something, you’d best be careful how you do it, or you’ll run the risk of alienating the original content at hand. That’s kind of how we felt about Tim Burton’s take of Alice In Wonderland when it was released last year. Good-looking? Sure. But also surprisingly empty in story and a little downright silly at times. However, good news comes in the form of American McGee, who has their own take on the legacy of Alice. And you’ll get to see just how murderous it is when the game releases for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and Windows PC on June 14, 2011. Alice: Madness Returns is the long-awaited follow-up to the highly popular American McGee’s Alice, but this time around, console owners will get a taste of the insanity, as the game is going multi-platform. But don’t worry, this isn’t a boring point-and-click adventure, and certainly not a misguided journey relying on technical 3-D folly to get its point across; far from it.

This is a brutal, imaginative world that will suck you in within mere moments. The in-game events follow those of the original, about eleven years down the road. After years of getting treatment at an asylum, Alice is freed, but still suffers from traumatic memories stemming from the death of her parents. She visits a London psychiatrist to get some help, but it’s of very little use. Starting to feel like she’s dwelling in her own madness, she decides to repay a visit to Wonderland to cure her woes, but the land has taken a turn for the worse and, with Vorpal Blade in hand, she must fight through the darkness, while along the way learning what became of her parents. Developed by the Shanghai studio at Spicy Horse, Alice: Madness Returns has traditional action elements in place, but winded around the twisted design of Wonderland. Alice has to make her way across this place, hacking and slashing at enemies while slowly piecing together a puzzle that explains everything to her.

Gamers will be amazed by the level design seen within the game, as each of the locales remains true to the visions of American McGee. At one point, a caterpillar appears, but rather than react all friendly-like, it morphs into a devastatingly large butterfly with murderous intentions. That’s when Alice has to put her Vorpal Blade, her weapon of choice, to work. And this isn’t the only instance. Another example of the game’s twisted gameplay is the introduction of a robotic teapot. Rather than pour her a drink, it chases after her with a vengeance, until she manages to kill it with a good stab in the eye. Other characters appear in the game as well, including the Jabberwock and the Dodo, and we’re pretty sure the Queen of Hearts is right around the corner, demanding the decapitation of our heroine. We’ve only seen the game played at the moment, so we don’t have any hands-on impressions for you. However, even if you’ve never played the original American McGee’s Alice, Madness Returns is rather easy to get into, with great action elements with a little exploration on the side.

Alice: Madness Returns almost feels like it has a little God of War to it, to be honest, but the tone remains true to the material. We also like some of the weapons in the game, including the awesome Teapot Cannon, the enemy-drawing Clockwork Rabbit, and the cool projectile-reflecting umbrella. Again, the in-game visuals look spectacular, and the voice acting we’ve heard so far is absolutely solid, particularly the Cheshire Cat, who notifies you that it’s “time to put your blade to work”, even if you’re a little hesitant at first. We’re eager to hear how the other characters sound in the game. We’ve only gotten a small peek into the looking glass with Alice: Madness Returns, but we’re not far off from seeing the whole thing, as the game is getting a June 14 release on Xbox 360.
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